Biden Speaks With Jacob Blake, Hears From Kenosha Residents

US President Joe Biden

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden put himself squarely in the middle of U.S. tumult over racial injustice and police brutality on Thursday, visiting strife-torn Kenosha, Wisconsin, and speaking by phone with the Black man shot there by police, Reuters writes.

Biden made the trip to the city, the site of sometimes violent protests since Jacob Blake was shot in the back several times by a white police officer on Aug. 23, two days after President Donald Trump traveled there.

The visits had starkly different tones. Biden met privately with Blake’s family on the grounds of the Milwaukee airport, and the former vice president also spoke with Blake, who is hospitalized, on the phone for about 15 minutes.

The Republican president’s visit on Tuesday, in contrast, was intended to convey support for police, and Trump did not meet Blake or his relatives.

At the Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, a somber Biden listened as local officials, business owners and current and former law enforcement members described a resilient community beaten down by racial divides and civil unrest.

Porsche Bennett, a Black Lives Matter organizer, said local Black residents were weary of false promises of police reform.

“We have yet to see action. And I was always raised to go off action, not words,” Bennett told Biden, who did not respond.

A small business owner, Barb DeBerge, said her business was at risk amid the violent protests but was spared heavy damage.

Biden, wearing a mask because of the coronavirus pandemic, condemned the destruction. “Regardless of how angry you are, if you loot or you burn you ought to be held accountable,” he said. “Period. It just cannot be tolerated, across the board.”

But he also praised the Black Lives Matter movement, saying Trump had not succeeded in swaying public opinion against the protests.

Trump on Tuesday toured a Kenosha furniture store destroyed in the upheaval and has maintained that Democrats like Biden condoned the violence and were in thrall to left-wing activists.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed most Americans do not see crime as a major national problem and a majority are sympathetic to anti-racism protests. By contrast, a large majority of Americans said they remain “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic.

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